Monday, July 30, 2012

Life As I Know It

    Oy. Four weeks from THIS VERY MINUTE, I shall be on an airplane, US-bound. Well, Philadelphia-bound, at least. Not to pick favorites as far as airlines go (LUFTHANSAISTHEBEST), but oh boy do I wish there'd been a cheap flight with anyone other than US Airways...and to anywhere other than Philadelphia, aka my least favorite airport ever. But hey, that's life.

   Now since I have so little time left (AHHHH), I've, as I may have mentioned towards the end of my last blog, made it a personal mission to do as many cool things and have as much fun as possible before  the coolest year of my life comes to a close. Therefore, this entry will be dedicated to the coolness that is my life. (Yes, I'm trying to make you all jealous. I'll need something to cling to when I go back to the sad life that is an unemployed college grad in the US of A.) And since, you know, I haven't written a "normal" blog in about three months. Life kind of got in the way.

   And since life did that whole getting-in-the-way thing, and because tonight is not a night that is conducive to chronology and transitions and properly formatted entries, prepare yourselves for a bullet-point-blog.

  Though I will readily confess it did indeed take me awhile to find them, I have basically the coolest friends ever. Leigh, who is basically the awesomest friend in the world, has been more than obliging in my quest to be awesome this summer, and we have been tearing up the town like crazy (as much as two people with remarkably restrictive work schedules can, anyway). We meet nearly every day to try new cafes, go to bookstores, check out sales, or go relax in the English Garden. Yesterday we played badminton. Freaking cool. And Sarah, who began as my choir buddy, comes with too and we have group adventures! Like swimming! And Tollwood! And eating Mexican food after choir when all the students have to go study!

  In all seriousness though, these girls have made the last couple months. So, so grateful to have them here.


    Though I haven't written about it in ages, my choir has been chugging along! A couple of months ago we had the amazing opportunity to record Palestrina's Canticum Canticorum (Song of Songs) for Naxos with the Bayerischer Rundfunk (main Bavarian classical radio organization). We spent a whole weekend shut up in a teensy but lovely chapel in a woman's hospital (random, yes) in the southern Altstadt, recording about 15 motets and an additional 22 Gregorian antiphons (the alto soloist being yours truly!) with nothing but each other, the terrible breath of the woman next to me, and a bottle of port. It was exhausting but fun and with a far better result than I could have anticipated. The music is gorgeous and the takes we got to hear (pre-mixing) actually didn't sound half bad! The CD should hopefully be ready sometime in September!

Okay, the two ladies on the right are awful. But the rest are great!
   A few weeks later we had an intensive concert weekend, though due to circumstances beyond my control, I could only attend two of the three, but it was good fun nonetheless. The first concert was about an hour or so north of Munich at a cloister. Seriously. With monks and everything! It was a part of their summer music festival series. (Check out the facebook event! Coolest and simultaneously most disconcerting part: It was a Kreuzgang concert, meaning we sang, basically, in a weird back hallway. Picture a hall tracing a 90 degree angle, fill both sides with people, and put the choir where the two sides meet, and add a bunch of candles, and there you have it! It was pretty cool, and the free dinner at the Cloister's brewery afterwards was a lot of fun too. If I had to be a monk anywhere (not that that's too serious a choice to have to make), Germany would be the place to do it. All you really do is brew beer and drink beer. And pray every now and then, I guess. We had another concert that next Sunday at a church we've sung at before, and it was well-received and also followed by free food! I could get used to that! But alas, all good things must come to an end.

    Yesterday was officially my last day of choir. We sang for the service at a church in the city, then went out for breakfast at Augustiner just across the street. I even, in order to get the full effect of the experience (and take advantage of someone else paying for it!), ate the traditional Weißwürstfrühstück and all that implies: white sausages of mixed pork and beef dipped in sweet mustard, pretzel, and weiss beer. At 10:30 AM. Am I German or what? I also got a gift from my director: a philosophical history book entitled, "Die beiden Amerika: Kolumbus und die Folgen" (The Two Americans: Columbus and the Consequences), which my director was the editor of. Very kind, if probably rather complicated!

   One of the coolest things about my wonderful choir friends is how much they like singing. It's like being back in high school when everyone wet their pants in excitement every time someone said a certain E. Whitacre's name and we all tried to sing his music together. Except it's not Whitacre, it's Purcell or Dowland, we actually succeed in singing it, and no one wets their pants. That I've noticed. We actually sometimes stay after rehearsals or concerts to sing, and have even wandered through the streets of Munich searching for somewhere out of the way to go and look at the new music someone had brought along. It's been an incredibly long time since I've sang with people just for the fun of singing, without the stress of preparing for a concert, worrying about proper technique, in an attempt to get a role, but just because it's nice out, we have pretty music, and it's fun to sing with one another! After my last rehearsal, before we went out for drinks, we gathered to sing a bit and my personal surprise was them singing to me Dowland's "Now, O Now, I Needs Must Part" ( It was so sweet and beautiful and while I am so sad to leave this choir behind, it was probably the best decision I made as far as keeping me sane in Germany! Thank you, random Greek guy at bar, for introducing me to Sarah back in September!


    As kindergarten-related activities are starting to wrap up, we've been treated to some fun kiddie stuff lately. Last Friday, Cliona's dance class gave a performance (in the very loosest sense of the word) for parents and siblings (and au pairs) to go watch, and it was hilarious. Cliona, of course, laughed like a drunken farmer the entire time, and it was the funniest thing. Though not dancing so much as playing movement-related games while wearing a pink tutu, she loves it and it is so much fun for the kids.

   Kilian has had all kinds of football tournaments lately, none of which I've been to (at 7:30 on a Sunday morning? No thank you!), so I made up for it by taking him to football last week. I haven't watched him play since last October or so, so it was fun to see how much he's improved! While, okay, even at six I can tell you he will never be any sort of talented footballer, he at least runs and sometimes even kicks the ball. It's adorable.

   We have also been doing a lot of baking lately. Okay, by "a lot," I mean twice. But that's plenty, trust me. The surge has come because I have American goodies I need to use up! We celebrated the 4th of July by making Funfetti cupcakes and decorating them American style. (C'mon, what can be more American than Funfetti?) They also helped me make real American chocolate chip cookies last week, with imported chocolate chips! (Imported by my mother, that is.) They were great until Cliona decided to lick pure raw egg off the counter. Oops.

Hard at work
Finished products

     I love the ways kids' minds work. Okay, to be honest I have no idea if that's kids, plural, or just mine. But Kilian is freaking awesome. His mom came home from work one day a couple months ago and said to him, "Hey Kilian, there's a circus set up in the park! Do you want to go see?" His answer? An instant, terrified, "But I haven't practiced!!!" I just love, so much, that his mind translated that as him being a circus star performer.

   Despite not being able to read yet, he really is such a smarty pants. He just got a new world map to hang on his wall, in preparation for school starting in September, and we've been having a lot of fun looking at it and studying it (most frequently when he's trying to put off going to bed). Naturally, Lake Titicaca has garnered probably a lot more interest than it necessarily deserves (brief pause while I go listen to Ernst Koch's Geographical Fugue:, but we've talked about a lot of other stuff too. We talk about different continents, and how scary is must have been for Columbus to sail out into nothing, and how the first people came from Africa and spread out through Europe and Asia and then much later went over the Bering Strait into the Americas (based on his question of though the Europeans didn't know America was there, did the Americans know Europe was there?). We've also talked a lot about the weirdness that in America, most people are lots and lots of different ethnicities, as opposed to Germany where most people are strictly German, or half German and half other-European. And he gets all this stuff! If he were a grown-up we would totally be best friends and have epic conversations all the time. Okay, we do anyway. And indeed, when I put him to bed that night, he gave me a hug and said, "I'm glad you came here instead of someone else." Me too, man.

And Cliona's Quote-of-the-Week, just for kicks: "Ich mag keine dicke, fette Kiwi, weil ich so traurig bin." (I like no fat kiwi, because I am so sad.) Umm, what?


KulturStrand. Possibly my current favorite place in Munich. (For non Deutschophiles, the name means "Culture Beach.") There's an island in the middle of the Isar (the large river that flows through Munich) where the Deutsches Museum sits. Across from the museum, surrounding a fountain, they cart in 104.4 tons of sand and make a beach there! There are beach chairs, umbrellas, a huge sand-filled canvas worm type of thing to sit on or lean against, a DJ, and, of course, a bar, with delicious summery cocktails that Germany does so well (for some weird reason). I've been there twice so far, once with Sarah and Leigh during the day, then once last week with my host mom and a couple of her friends--we rode our bikes the 13 km into town after work and hung out drinking cocktails. All the fun of sitting on the beach with your toes in the sand--plus, you can DRINK! (I realize I sound like an alcoholic. I'm not. I promise.)

The Summer Tollwood Festival is the summer equivalent of Frühlingsfest and Winter Tollwood, which in turn are all baby versions of Oktoberfest. But dude, they are fun! Unlike the other three, Summer Tollwood takes place up at Olympiapark, the huge complex built for the 1972 Olympics in Munich, containing a swim hall, a stadium, a lake, and facilities that originally hosted the boxing, hockey, gymnastics, and volleyball events during the Olympics. The park as a whole is really cool, and we've been there several times, which will be later addressed. Or earlier. I told you, I'm not super into the chronological thing today. Anyway, I took on the festival a couple times during the three weeks it was here, once with Leigh and once with Leigh, Daniel, and Sarah. It's a much smaller festival than its compatriots, with a much more laid-back vibe. It's kind of like a US market night, except with random beer tents and no laws against walking around drinking. There's also a music festival as part of it, with people performing like Lou Reed and Lady Antebellum. We had a great time both times just walking around, looking at the souvenir things to buy and enjoying the atmosphere.

Olympiapark is super cool. I'd, embarrassingly, never been there until about a month ago, when Sarah, Leigh and I went there to swim. Though those Olympics were forty years ago, it's still pretty cool to swim in that enormous pool (and see for myself how freaking high those high dives really are). And I sort of feel like the spirit of the Olympics transcends geographic borders so maybe I sort of have swam with Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte...? Anyway, we had a great time swimming around and jumping off the (smallest) diving board, then spending some time out in the sun gossiping and being girly and it was just so much fun. Did I mention I have wonderful friends!
   Leigh, Paulo, and I also continue fairly regularly to go up there to play tennis, which has been fun to get back into, especially since we're all enough of a level that we can play together pretty well. Though I do drive people crazy with my slices. Muahaha!
   And finally, Leigh and I went one night to the Kino am Olympiasee. Munich has a wonderful tradition of open-air movie theaters (something I wonder why on earth California doesn't do more of; the weather is so iffy here it seems risky and they do it regardless!), and literally every night there are movies at several different locations to choose from. So we took our beach towels, blankets, and lots of snacks up to Olympiapark and bought 6 euro apiece picnic seats. It was way too much fun. There's an enormous inflatable movie screen that gets set up around 9:15 or 9:30 (once it gets dark enough) and you get to sit there and watch the movie. It's something entirely different than a movie theater experience to get to sit outside sprawled out on a blanket with birds and bugs and air flying around you. It's wonderful. And our excellent selection of refreshments did not hurt one bit.

    I've been lucky enough to go to a couple of great concerts lately with my friend Paulo, who has a very useful talent of being able to get tickets to pretty much anything. We saw a wonderful Rachmaninov/Walton program back at the beginning of July at the Gasteig, home of the Munich Philharmonic, then attended a Sunday morning performance of Bruckner's Mass No. 3 in the Herkulessaal at the Residence Palace, and finally one of the best concerts I've ever been to, the closing concert of the Munich Philharmonic with Shostokovich's Symphonies 11 and 15, with Valery Gergiev conducting. We lucked into orchestra seats, a mere nine rows back. It was incredible. Shostakovich symphonies are loud and fun and in-your-face, and it was such a cool experience. And followed by Indian food--even better!
Leigh and I at Herkulessaal
   I went a couple weeks ago to a ToyTown event (ok, not a place, but whatever). It'd been ages since I'd gone, but a new friend was trying out a new students/interns meet-up and asked if I'd come along. It ended up being really fun--a nice Canadian bar with the most delicious house-made hard lemonade ever  and about ten people actually having conversations instead of just the speed-dating type of chatter that tends to haunt ToyTown events, at least the ones I've been to. Most of the evening was spent listening to a New Yorker elaborate on the downside of American healthcare (but in an intelligent way, at least! I'll give you that, Dillon.) and the two of us attempting to explain the oddities of America as a country to some Brits and Danes. It was a lot of fun.

   Leigh had some friends in town a couple of weeks ago and we took them down to Starnberger See, a lake south of Munich. I'd actually never been there before, and though the day was less than ideal, weather-wise, it was beautiful and peaceful and I need to go back there to swim before I leave!

That's Leigh walking. She went swimming. She is brave.

   Okay, you obviously have heard me talk about the English Gardens, but I have to share this just so other people can feel the pain that's been heavy on my heart (and inner eye) this week. Leigh and I had an idyllic morning on a hot Thursday last week lounging and dunking in the river, eating sandwiches, and reading German gossip magazines, when we were treated to quite a sight. Remember how you're allowed to be naked in the English Gardens? Well, this is nothing new, and you see naked people pretty much every time you're there. But only rarely do they choose to set up their towel a mere THREE FEET FROM YOUR HEAD AND LIE THERE WITH THEIR GENITALS STARING YOU NOT-SO-SUBTLY IN THE FACE! The "they" there, if you were wondering, was one particularly determined middle-aged German fellow, who...erm, displayed his personal parts more blatantly than I would have thought possible. It was definitely not crowded. There was no excuse. And now, I am for the rest of my life entirely satisfied to see no more elderly German testicles. I'm sorry. I had to say it.

   I feel like that's an appropriate note to end on! You've done well, readers. Hang in there for 28 more days and we'll be home free! Then I can tell you about my life in person.

   And ten extra-credit points to the people who noticed there weren't actually any bullet points in this entry.

Kilian's surprise for me the other day. All by himself! Yes, I know the spelling is far from perfect, but still the sweetest thing ever <3

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Durst ist schlimmer als Heimweh

"Thirst is worse than homesickness"

    I leave Munich a terrifying five weeks from today. (Okay, five weeks and one day.)

    There are days, usually when I'm fighting with screaming children or ironing unending piles of clothes, when I'm more than ready to leave.

    But then there are days when the weather is beautiful, it's warm and friendly, and I just want to dive into the wonderfulness that is living in Europe, and I can't imagine why I would ever want to leave this amazing city, where I truly feel more at home than I've ever felt in Yucaipa or Orange or LA. I feel the pulse of this city far more so than I ever have anywhere else. I love the ease and comfort of living somewhere where there are universally understood rules that everyone follows. I love having friends with whom I can switch languages if one doesn't seem to be getting the point across. I love the openness with which you can sit down near someone who you exchange a cursory greeting with who then ends up talking with you for hours and paying for your dinner. I love the challenge of having a conversation with someone when I know I can't perfectly say what I need to, but they have the courtesy and the understanding to keep listening, smile when I acknowledge a mistake, and have the kindness to keep talking to me.

   I can open a beer bottle without a bottle opener, type on a keyboard with the z and y reversed without trouble (and even find my various umlauts and Eszett without flinching), navigate one of the world's most extensive public transportation networks after far too many beers, ride a bike while carrying several bags of groceries, and drink a beer in order to quench my thirst.

    More than anywhere I have ever been, I have fallen in love with this city.

    And the thought of going back to the land of catcalls from construction workers, doors not being held open, and walking down streets past dark being a dangerous experience is one I'm not ready to face yet.

    Suddenly instead of counting up from my arrival ("here three months today!"... "six months today!..."), it's counting down. Letters arrive from the Kreisverwaltungsreferat, telling me I'm running out of time to do something about being allowed to stay here. What do you mean, less than two months?

Thank God for these five more weeks.

    I am, however, ready to be done being an au pair. Though I do still think wholeheartedly that I got incredibly lucky with my host family and had a wonderful, wonderful time being their au pair, I'm ready to be in control of my own life again. Being an au pair is unique in that, unlike every other job, there is no such thing as being not at work. Even if it's my day off, non-working hours, et cetera, et cetera, I'm still at work. I can be asked at any moment to empty the dishwasher, cancel my evening plans, skip a concert so my host parents can go out to dinner. And it's incredibly frustrating. There's no such thing as ending your day and going home. Not ever having worked a true 9-5 job, I can't completely say what that's like, but I'd imagine there's some comfort in knowing that whatever crap you have to put up with during the day, at least there's a definite ending point to all of that.

    Though it may seem like the most carefree job in the world, it can actually be pretty stressful. And I will also say that after this year is done, I will have had my fill (for a while, at least) of relaxing. Having nothing to do is hard. And boring. And doesn't make you feel very good at the end of the day. I'm ready to have a purpose to my day again, and to do something that, while maybe it doesn't actually "make a difference," with all that heavy phrase implies, at least accomplished something other than ferrying two tired children home from kindergarten and stuffing bread and cheese into their tummies. As much as I love my kiddies (I really do; my future children will have some high expectations to live up to), I will indeed be more than okay with being done as an au pair.

    But the idea of leaving Munich terrifies me a little, right now. As time goes on, I find more and more reasons why I could actually be happy here. My shallow reasons like not eating Mexican food, not being able to find black beans, not getting to go the beach, et cetera, et cetera, slowly fade as I find my feet more and more here. I know where to go for good (not Rosie's or Cuca's class, but good) Mexican food (anything surrounding Giselastraße, for some reason). Black beans are, indeed, findable, if you know where to look, as is American brown sugar (one of my successes of this week). Last weekend, Leigh, Sarah and I went to a little "beach" on the island in the middle of the Isar, and drank beer whilst sitting in the sand (without breaking any laws to do so!).

   But life goes on, and us with it. I miss the days when a year was actually a long time. Now, a week goes by without my even noticing.

   But I try my damnedest to enjoy the remainder of my time here. I will be back all too soon to the land of obligations and requirements, of problems like paying for car insurance and coming up with money for deposits on apartments. To waking up daily at god-forsaken hours of the morning (I hope so, at least; if I'm not, that probably means I'm unemployed...or working a night job. Ew). And I will go back to my country with a smile on my face, because I am excited to see people (and my dog), to see my home, and to see if I still fit into the place I took myself out of.

   But I'm glad I still have five weeks to pysch myself up. I no longer feel like I need to go home. Three months ago, I was more than ready. But then something clicked, and I finally felt like I got my feet under me. It helped, of course, that I got to see my parents last month--were that not true, I probably would be a lot more eager. And I don't not want to come home. I'm just realistic (maybe too much so) about what it awaiting me there.

   And in the meantime...well, all I can say is I'm not done here yet. And I'll be back.

   Photo disclaimer: a lot of these are old. Though this weather is definitely not July weather by California standards, it hasn't snowed, at least.

Bayerischer Landtag 


Englischer Garten

St. Lukas Kirche
Bavaria monument
Englischer Garten

Isar, looking north
Volksbad and Gasteig
Isar, looking south
BMW headquarters
The field next to the kindergarten
Englischer Garten

Monday, July 16, 2012

Au Pair-ents in Munich

    Well, there went my intentions on getting caught up quickly! Why is it every single one of my most recent blogs begin with an apology for not updating in a timely manner? Though I suppose it's better to be too busy to blog than update ten times a week with nothing to say. Eh? Eh? That's what I thought.

    Anyway, back to the third installment of the epic-ness that is Smimes Europe Trip!

    I'll save you the suspense now and tell you that, alas, I was unable to convince my parents to stay the rest of the summer and hang out with me, and they are, even as I type, back in good ol' Yucaipa, wowing neighbors with their new knowledge of German culture (I can only assume).

   But put that out of your mind, because we're going back two and a half weeks to the weekend of my parents' visit to Munich!

    Though our weekend trips to Nuremberg and Prague were beyond fun and I had an amazing time, I was most excited for my parents to come here. Whereas in the other cities we were all tourists together (though I like to think I was an A+ tourist, armed as I was with guide books and maps and Yelp-pre-scouted dinner locations), in Munich it was them coming to my home! Like your parents coming to see your new apartment for the first time, just on a much grander scale. They'd been here before, but not since the 70s, and not to much other than Oktoberfest, so I was super excited.

   So yeah, got back from Prague, did something all week (no idea what, clearly paled in comparison), and then it was Friday! I finished all my chores early while frequently phoning my parents to give them directions, and by about 1 they were arrived at my house! They got to come in, meet my host mom, see my room, bathroom, and general environs. It was super weird for me and probably a a little weird for them too. They'd seen my room, of course, but all via various internet video chat conversations, and it's quite another thing to be there in person! It was a weird crashing together of the two most separate parts of my life. We walked around my neighborhood (in disgustingly hot weather, I might add), seeing the various sights (which are of interest to probably no one except my parents), but they included my grocery store, bakery, and bank; the kids' favorite playground; the local beer garden; the wood I go on runs through; and the kids' kindergarten. It was good fun and they were super good sports about it (a grocery store is a grocery store, let's be real). The kids were still at the kindergarten, and I'd graciously been given the afternoon off from any dance classes/football, so we drove off into town.

   I successfully managed to direct us to the hotel, with only about six missed turns (driving in Europe is hard). I was pretty proud of myself. It's surprisingly hard to know how to navigate a city by car when you only ever take public transport. But we made it! Our hotel was, though rather small and unimpressive, perfectly suitable and very well located, just to the east of the Innenstadt and right on an U-Bahn/S-Bahn stop (and coincidentally right next to where I took my old language class). Leaving a note for Neal and Lettie, the friends from the previous weekend in Prague who would again be joining us, we headed out into the city to find some food.

   My parents rather magically managed to pick the one ridiculously hot weekend we've had all summer to be in Munich. I really don't know how they did it, but it was disgustingly humid and in the 90s the whole time they were here, and as soon as they left, the weather resumed its typical rainy high-of-68 pattern. Lucky ducks. Now they won't listen when I whine about the weather. Poor planning, Laura.

   Anyway, our quick walk on in through the city lead to one of the simplest yet nicest eating places I know of, particularly for a hot day: Augustiner am Dom. It's a typical Bayrisch place with good beer, good food, and sits right next to the Frauenkirche Cathedral. My parents were good sports and got good traditional Bavarian food (my mother's even came with Leberkäse, though she totally chickened out on eating it) and fortunately the restaurant came through with some dark beer for my picky father.

   Fed and watered, we walked more slowly through the city to see some of the sights, having probably a few hours to kills before Neal and Lettie would arrive. Our stops were sights you should all well know by know: Marienplatz, Odeonsplatz, the Hofgarten, and the English Gardens (and the surfers!), stopping there to put our hot and tired feet in the ice cold river (and see some naked people while we were at it, of course; it wouldn't be an English Gardens trip without some old-fashioned nudity), then head back to our hotel down the lovely Leopoldstraße, just in time to find our friends back at the hotel and head back out for the night.

English Gardens
  I'll stop here to give my parents the credit they deserve: they rocked the nightlife, man. Okay, not nightlife in the traditional sense; there was no clubbing or anything like that, but we did manage to stay up past even my normal bedtime every night. The sun setting so late certainly helps; at midsummer the sky didn't get completely dark until about 10:20 PM. But seriously, good job parents!

   So we set out again from our hotel, this time in the company of Neal and Lettie, heading for Augustiner Keller, one of the larger and most popular beer gardens in Munich (and highly recommended by yet another guide book, Neal's trusty "Beer Drinker's Guide to Munich" (which he very kindly left with me for the remainder of my stay!)). A short tram ride away, we were there by probably 10 PM and managed to fairly painlessly find a seat (though the place was quite full; there's really not a better choice for a hot and muggy Friday night than to head to a beer garden! Augustinerkeller can fit about 5,000 people, and there were probably at least 4/5 of that there.) and get started drinking Munich style, which is to say, a full liter of beer. We stayed there drinking jocularly and munching on pretzels, radishes, and the last of the food they sold before they closed the kitchens until at least 1:30 AM, I think. A table next to us was full of a bunch of Americans from some Oklahoma university who insisted on hollering their fight songs over and over again until they were hushed by a worker. The only songs you're allowed to scream in a beer garden had better be football-related and during a game.

Mom showing off her first real Bavarian pretzel
   I love beer gardens. Maybe it's because the Germans have more practice at drinking than Americans or start drinking earlier, but they are just not places that exist in the US. Whereas bars exist as slightly tabu, classless joints, beer gardens in Bavaria are filled with families drinking together. Most beer gardens have enormous playgrounds for the kids. When people get drunker, they just have more intense and even friendlier conversations. It's really a magical environment. I've never been at a beer garden when anyone's gotten out of control or been inappropriate. Alcohol usage at its finest, really.

   Furthermore, I'd thought I'd done pretty well upping my alcohol tolerance living here, but apparently I've just been hanging out with lightweights. My parents are beer-drinking champions. Though I would've liked to see them try and find their way back to the hotel without me. Ha!

  After almost zero sleep (not because of the late hour but because of the heat; I literally have never slept so poorly in my life. I miss hotels with air-conditioning), we headed down to a delicious hotel breakfast and took our time and advantage of the buffet. Neal showed off his new toy purchased in Salzburg: a device that cracks the top off of a soft-boiled egg. What will they think of next? We then dallied around in the lobby, waiting for the final additions to our tourist party to arrive. Julie and Colin are good friends of Neal and Lettie's and our family as well; they live in the UK and we've been to stay with them and their kids a couple of times, and it very cool-ly worked out for them to fly over for a quick weekend reunion in Munich. Once they showed up, changed, and drank a cup of tea (which takes about 90 minutes, by the way), we headed out into the heat.

   It is a difficult thing to be a tourist in the heat. I will definitely say that. And I forgive my parents and their friends for being such wimpy ones. The only problem with meeting friends you haven't seen in years in a foreign city is you'd rather talk than spend energy sightseeing! I certainly get it. But boy did I have to drag these guys around. I should've brought a whip. Not in a weird way.

   Anyway, after a short but sweaty walk through the pedestrian streets and Marienplatz, we ended up at the beer garden in Viktualienmarkt, where we camped for the next two or three hours. The garden was very full but well-shaded and with plenty of beer flowing, so we passed a lovely time there (with some ice cream thrown in at the end, much to my relief). We then headed over to a super cute little cafe to meet with a friend of Julie and Colin's, a girl my age who lives in Munich. We'd never met before so we had fun talking. I also got to drink a Hugo, my new favorite cocktail (ask Leigh, I ask her practically daily if she's ever had one): sparkling water, prosecco, Holunderblüt syrup (elderberry), mint, and a slice of lime. NOM.

Beer garden in Viktualienmarkt

Showing off her Hugo
   When the heat had dissipated a bit, we headed again to the English Gardens, where we stopped again to look at the surfers and met up with Leigh! The eight of us then scurried across the gardens and caught an U-Bahn to get to dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant, where we ordered (and ate!) more food than I thought possible. It was delicious and fun and was nice to have Leigh finally meet my parents, since they've both heard so much about the other. We headed home around 12:30, stuffed and satisfied. My tour guiding skills are such that we even walked through the midst of the clubbing district on Maximilianplatz on our way back and got to see some interesting looking people. You're so welcome.

Yes Mom, I stole your picture
   The next morning dawned thankfully cooler than the previous, and we enjoyed yet another delicious breakfast as we made a plan for the day. My parents and I had to talk off around 3 to get to my host family's house for a barbecue, so the others would be on their own for the afternoon/evening. The chance of rain sent us in the directions of Munich's fabulous art museums, specifically the Pinakothek der Moderne, where Sunday admission is conveniently only a euro! We spent the next three hours of so moseying through the displays, which include hundreds of chairs, videos of naked construction workers walking around, and old Macintosh computers, as well as some more traditional stuff like Warhol, Marc, and Kandinsky paintings. There was even a special exhibit of American photography, with one photo from San Timeteo Canyon, about a ten minute drive from my parents' house, and a lovely set of of photos of pregnant women shooting up. It was...interesting.

500 workers in a Japanese factory were given a chocolate bar and asked to make something out of the wrapper, displayed here. Such a cool (and random) idea. Modern museums are cool.

    We then headed across the street for a quick beer (sensing a theme?) and then my parents and I bid farewell to the others and headed out to my house.

   I was excited more than anything for this part of the weekend; it's so weird to think of how well I know this family and these kids and my parents finally get to meet the people they'd heard so much about. And the afternoon did not disappoint. The kids were out on the street waiting for us to arrive and all was very exciting. Kilian and Cliona were on their best behavior and were super cute and charming and their normal adorable selves. We had a delicious lunch of salad, caprese, grilled vegetables, chicken, lamb, and turkey, with ice cream and hot raspberries for dessert. My host dad even went out and bought dark beer for my father to drink. It was way too much fun. My dad got a chance to grill a REAL German about things like healthcare, certain German vocabulary, political views, et cetera, and it was just a lot of fun talking! Kilian and Cliona absconded with my parents for a while and had a game-playing session with them inside (Cliona even obliged by speaking ENGLISH to them, which she almost never does). It was such a lovely afternoon and a great way to end my parents' final day in Germany.

   After about four hours at my host family's (and waiting out a very impressive cloudburst), we bid farewell and headed back into town for the last night in Munich. We managed to find Neal and Lettie back at the hotel (Julie and Colin having left to catch their flight back to the UK), and we did what any good American tourists would do when confronted with a lack of firm plan in Munich: go to the Hofbräuhaus! As touristy as I know it is, it's actually way fun. I've even been known to go there without the excuse of a tourist to entertain! (Though we sit upstairs in the quiet part when that's true.) Sunday night was actually a great night to go--we were able to sit in the main hall, where it's usually a complete and utter madhouse, without having to go to too much trouble, though we were on the late side and I had to beg the waitress to let us get food. There's a traditional Bavarian oom-pa band, which is a lot of fun, though they play "Ein Prosit" (the toasting song) once about every ten minutes and it gets old pretty fast. Especially when your more-than-slightly inebriated father insists on harmonizing at the top of his lungs every time it plays. But it was quite a lot of fun. We headed contentedly back to the hotel and said goodnight and farewell.

Dad and his new best friend at the HB Haus
    I headed out early the next morning to get home to take Cliona to English kindergarten, and it was very sad to have to say goodbye to my parents, but after going almost seven months without seeing them, the remaining two (one and a half, now) seem pretty short!

   And now, life's back to normal again. It was way too much fun having my parents here, and I think it really shook me out of my my-life's-so-sad funk I've been in. Leigh and I have resolved (and achieved, for the last two weeks!) to have some thoroughly awesome fun in the time I have left here, and the summer is shaping up to be a good one.

   That's all for now! Next blog is half written, and I SWEAR it will be more timely! Also check back soon for updates on my choir, which I've sadly neglected lately! (That was for you, Sarah :) )

  And happy summer to you all!